The Garden of Perfect Brightness—3 Destruction, Looting, and Me
In October 1860, the Second Opium War came to a violent end when British and French forces sacked and destroyed the imperial retreat, Yuanmingyuan. The wooden buildings that made up the major portion of the park were burned. The stone and marble European-style palaces and pavilions survived only as ruins. Many valuable objects of art were taken as plunder and made their way into the great “Oriental” collections of the West. The issue of looted Chinese art and artifacts continues to make news today. The Yuanmingyuan remains a symbol of the beginning of modern China’s “humiliation” at the hands of the rapacious foreigners.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2012 Visualizing Cultures